Friday, February 29, 2008

Food and Wine - CREME FRAICHE

My wine group was over last night to try some West Coast pinot noirs. The wines were from away, but my menu was very much rooted in Saskatchewan:

Pork loin with an anise seed rub served with a sour cherry sauce and a salad of roasted beets and grilled goat cheese. (Sadly, there is no locally-made goat cheese... yet.)

Beef Bourguignon, the stew from Burgundy, France (also the home of pinot noir) served with a wedge of potato galette.

Gougere flavoured with dried chanterelle mushrooms. (Goo-jzer are a cross between a cream puff and a bun... light and creamy.)

Chocolate and dried fruit loaf with creme fraiche. The recipe called for dried pears but I used my own dried apples and sour cherries.

Creme fraiche is a French thing, a thick tart cream that you can make at home: Take a clean jar with a lid. Add 1.5 cups of cream and 2 tbsp of buttermilk. Shake well. Leave on the counter top for 24-48 hours, until the creme is thick. Refrigerate. (From John Bishop's new cookbook Fresh.)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Farmer-Chef Connection event Feb 24/25

Some 70 chefs, food producers and food procureres gathered for a day of networking and brainstorming in Saskatoon, an event sponsored by Tourism Saskatchewan, with the goal of getting more Saskatchewan food into local restaurants. A similar event will be held in Regina on June 23, 2008. The guest speaker, John Bishop, talked about serving local food at his restaurant in Vancouver. He was also the guest of honour at a local food dinner at Calories in Saskatoon. Here are some pictures from those events:
Chef Ryan of the Bessborough Hotel with a buffet lunch of local foods. His menu is below.

Swiss onion soup; Blue potato salad
Red fife bread
Oven roasted chicken with chanterelle mushroom ragout
Beef sausage and peppers with wasbi lime mustard
Roast fingerling potatoes in garlic pesto
Saskatoon berry pie; gelato with wild rose petal sauce

One of the local food producers, Brother Pius of St. Peter's Abbey,
enjoys lunch.

Chef Peter Phillips of the Riverside Country Club discusses food products with farmers Anita and Marc Loiselle. Note the basket of their red fife wheat bread.

Vancouver chef John Bishop with Calories proprietors Janis and Remi Cousyn.

A scrumptous dessert at Calories made with Saskatchewan berries.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Eating local when eating out in Saskatoon

This column first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on 27 February 2008

Where do you eat out when you want to eat local food? I am frequently asked this question and, I am glad to say, the answer is getting easier. A growing number of restaurants in Saskatoon are tapping into the local food market so it is now possible to find fresh locally-produced ingredients on several menus.

One of the leaders in local cuisine is chef Rémi Cousyn of Calories Restaurant on Broadway Avenue. Rémi hails from the south of France where restaurants specialize in local foods—not just for the tourists that flock to the Cote d’Azur, but also for local diners who take pride in their regional cuisine. He brought this ethic to Saskatoon, creating a network of farmers and gardeners who supply his restaurant, changing the menu every month to take advantage of whatever has landed at his kitchen door.

I recently dined at Truffles Bistro, which has moved downtown, where all the local food suppliers are listed on the menu. If there is any concern that “local” and “gourmet” don’t go together, Truffles’ chefs Lee Helman and Jean-Francois Dionne put that sad misconception to rest. Then there’s Simon’s restaurant, run by chef Simon Reynolds, who hails from England, where local food has been popular for going on 15 years. At Simon’s, the flavours may be British but they’re made whenever possible with local ingredients. I was introduced to Simon at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market by another chef, Dan Walker, proprietor of Weczeria in the Broadway district. Dan is often spotted at the market clutching heavy sacks laden with fresh food.

When I’m in the mood for a drive, I visit the New Ground Café in Birch Hills where Jennifer Willems serves comfort food made almost entirely with local supplies. In fact, I saw all these chefs this past weekend at the first Farmer-Chef Connection conference in Saskatoon. As the name implies, a whole bunch of chefs sat down with a whole bunch of farmers and gardeners to talk about the possibilities for bringing more local food to their menus. So many people registered for the event it had to be moved to a bigger ballroom at the Bessborough Hotel.

The chef at the Bessborough, Ryan Marquis, served a fabulous lunch that included blue potato salad, roast chicken with chanterelle mushroom ragout, red fife bread, saskatoon berry pie and gelato topped with rose petal syrup. Other restaurants represented were Boffins, Los Palapas, Jerry’s, the university Faculty Club, Riverside Country Club, Saskatoon Club and the Yellow Fender in Christopher Lake. Perhaps Simon summed it up best when he looked around the room and said, “It’s a new food scene for Saskatoon.”

The keynote speaker was chef John Bishop of Vancouver who is a pioneer of the local food movement in Canada and author of the new cookbook Fresh: Seasonal Recipes Made with Local Foods. (And who, incidentally, is married to a gal from Wilke, Saskatchewan.) John talked about a shift in restaurant culture—at one time, fine dining meant exotic foods like lobster and other imported delicacies, but has now come to mean the freshest local ingredients served at their very best. Like most restaurants, he used to order all his food from one company (which also sold him toilet paper and cleaning supplies), delivered regularly in a big truck. Now, he has more than 30 individual farmers supplying food throughout the year. Of course, a chef in Vancouver has an advantage over a chef from Saskatchewan, where nothing grows outside for six months of the year. He advocates the “80-20” rule—or perhaps a “50-50” rule this time of year—using local ingredients when they are available, augmented with foods from away.

Just how wonderful this can be was proven Monday evening by the chefs at Calories, who served a four course local meal based on recipes from John’s new cookbook. We started with a velvety lentil soup, then trout in a creamy egg sauce, rabbit with potatoes parisiennes, berry mouse on honey pound cake and a sip of cassis made with local black currents. The chocolate liquor cup wasn’t local, but who’s complaining?

With possibilities like that, and with more farmer-chef connections, expect to see plenty more local foods on local menus. Perhaps it’s time for a window sticker so that tourists—and the rest of us—can enjoy the flavours of Saskatchewan more often.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Saskatchewan Food Trivia - Honey

Saskatchewan bees are more prolific than bees just about anywhere else in North America: an average 195 pounds of honey per hive. In comparison, the average honey production in Alberta is about 140 pounds per hive; in Canada it's about 130 pounds per hive. The bees of Saskatchewan are so prolific because of the long days and the vast fields of flowering canola and flax.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A very "Swede" Valentine

John and I rarely eat out on Valentine's Day as it's too busy in the good restaurants, so we like to cook together at home. For a truly "Swede" Valentine's dinner we turned to The Smorgasbord Cookbook by Anna Olsson Coombs. And to sweeten the pot even more, we made everything with local Saskatchewan ingredients:

Eggs al a Greta (devilled eggs with peas and cheese)
Swedish Meat Balls (with lamb and pork) in Cream Gravy
Candidied Carrots
Apple Pie

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Food Event in Saskatoon

Vancouver chef John Bishop will be in Saskatoon later this month for a couple of fantastic food events.

John was a pioneer of the local food movement in Vancouver and has a delicious cookbook (the recipes not the book) called Fresh. On Feb. 25 he'll be the guest of honour at Calories Restaurant where Chef Remi Cousyn is preparing a menu with recipes from Fresh made with Saskatchewan ingredients. I will be speaking at the dinner about the wonderful work that Calories is doing to bring local food to their menu.

On Feb. 24, John is the keynote speaker at the first Local Bounty: Farmer Chef Connection in Saskatoon. The event brings together the chefs who serve local food and the farmers/gardeners who are producing it.